The Bills in Toronto – Securing a future for the team in Buffalo?
The Bills announced an extension of the “Bills in Toronto” series. This extension will see the series continue an additional 5 years. The Buffalo Bills need Southern Ontario. Not only for the 15-20,000 fans that buy up tickets to the Ralph each Sunday, and not for the increase of sales at local Wal-marts and Target markets, but for the television revenue and exposure that comes from being associated with a big market. Bigger market = bigger money, obviously.
The GTA is amongst the top five markets in North America, dwarfing most other NFL markets save for NY, LA, Chicago and Philadelphia – http://canadatvmedia.com/canadian-television/statistics.html - So don’t think this is about the extra gate revenue. It is also the 51st largest urban market in the world. Compare to Buffalo, which is the 51st largest in North America and doesn’t even figure into world rankings. Nothing of what I’m arguing is groundbreaking, rather I am merely trying to put into perspective the difference in size and wealth difference between the two cities.
When gauging the success or failure of the current five-year pact between the Bills and Rogers consider that the Bills just announced that they have sold out the first two home games. For a team that has done very little in the way of success on the field, that’s not bad. Can we say it’s a direct result of the Bills in Toronto series? No, not necessarily. I don’t have the information to say that with any degree of certainty. What is for certain is that more Southern Ontarians are making the trip to Orchard Park, and are doing it with increasing regularity.
The Buffalo Bills belong to Buffalo and WNY, and I really don’t think many outside that area are seriously thinking the Bills will move to Toronto – not now, anyway. I think the attitude of many, but not all, is increasing frustration at the realization that losing the team to another market is a possibility. When one considers all I have said about the size and money that are connected to T.O., I can see how Bills fans (including myself) could be worried about the NFL, Bills ownership and Rogers Communications setting in motion the relocation of the franchise Northwest, about an hour down the QEW.
What I am hoping that Western New Yorkers understand is that the Bills giving up one home game to play in Toronto is the ideal situation given the circumstances. The league, obviously, wants two things in this situation – to cash-in on Toronto, a relatively un-tapped market, and not to severe ties to the large and supportive fanbase in Western New York.
Toronto is not a “Bills-Town”…yet. It doesn’t have any one team that it supports en masse, but, like the city itself, is very diverse, and affords its inhabitants the right to support whichever team they like. For the Bills, this is music to their ears because they have the opportunity to devour the lion’s share of fans. By far, Buffalo is the closest team to Toronto, with Detroit a distant second. Continuing the relationship will slowly convert new fans to join Bills Nation. New generations of Southern Ontarians will grow up surrounded with the Blue and Red (and perhaps the double-blue of the CFL’s Argonauts).
The other big factor at play here is that by putting a game a year in Toronto, Buffalo is laying claim to Toronto as part of its territory. Toronto has been talking about NFL expansion as far back as the 1970s. Territorial rights fees are huge today, but a team in Toronto would be outside the zone of territorial rights fees that the Bills could request if they were a “Buffalo-based” team. By playing one game a year in Toronto, the Bills can say that Toronto is part of their territory and request a territorial rights fee, should the city get a future expansion franchise, or another NFL team try to re-locate to the city. And, “if” the team is forced to move, I would think Western New Yorkers would prefer them to move to Toronto as opposed to any other city in North America. I am not saying this will happen, just a “what if” scenario.
As a huge Bills fan myself, I really love to see the partnership between the two cities. Not because I want the team to move to Toronto, because I don’t. Rather, I believe the deal is imperative to the future of the Bills in Buffalo.
…and that is the Last Word.